If you haven’t heard of the global food waste crisis, you’re not alone. Even though it affects all of us in one way or another, it’s a phenomenon that is seldom covered in the news or talked about by politicians. However, we all should be concerned about the effects of the crisis, as they pose a threat to our future generations and the planet, as well. But what exactly is the global food waste crisis? And why should we care about it?
According to the National Resources Defense Council, one-third of all food globally is either misused or wasted. And the numbers are even more shocking in developed nations such as the United States, where the food industry produces more than four times the amount of food needed by the population. Hence, most of the food produced is thrown to waste.
But why are we producing more food than necessary in the first place?
In Layman’s terms, it’s a simple case of supply and demand. On average, customers purchase more food than what is needed, generating more demand—and ultimately more supply—than necessary, thus creating a never-ending cycle of mass production and consumption.
But the effects of this crisis go beyond simply wasting food that could be feeding the hungry. In many countries with massive surpluses of food, inadequate distribution has a direct effect on poverty, diseases, and the environment, among other things.
“Producing this huge surplus leads to deforestation, depleted water supplies, massive fossil fuel consumption, and biodiversity loss,” says Tristam Stuart, a British researcher from the University of Cambridge who has been studying this issue for years. Additionally, excess food decomposing in landfills accounts for 10 percent of greenhouse gas emissions by wealthy nations, according to Tristam.
Global agricultural systems worldwide are already struggling to feed all seven billion inhabitants on earth. And while many may believe that insufficient production of crops and goods is at fault, some may be shocked to find out that food waste is to be held accountable.
And the fact that we’re producing enough food but people are still starving in certain places is particularly worrying given the global phenomenon of urban expansions into productive farmland. As population worldwide increase, cities expand outward and many fertile and productive farmlands are destroyed due to housing and commercialization. As a result, food becomes scarcer, causing prices to rise and making it even less available for those who can’t afford it.
However, it’s not too late to start making changes. For example, last year the United States Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency proposed to cut down the United States food waste by approximately 50 % by 2030. And as individuals, we can also make a difference by becoming more conscious of how much we consume, and creating awareness of how reducing food waste can have a powerful impact on the less fortunate and the environment. So next time you’re in the supermarket, try to think twice about the food you’re buying, and if you have a surplus of food at home, look for ways to donate it or to make it available to those in need.
By Jennifer Santos